A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Does it matter?

Posted by Pepper on January 14, 2014

I am not much of a looker. I have a terrible nose and lousy skin that erupts every now and then, leaving behind visible blemishes that depress me. And my hair needs to be treated with a mix of hot irons, conditioners and chemicals in order for it to look somewhat presentable to the world. Okay fine, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because although I am not good looking, I can be classified as ‘average’. And that is not bad. But if you ask me, I don’t possess too many features I am proud of.

Except one. My waist. I was in my teens when I discovered that the perfect female body consisted of these elusive numbers, 36-24-36. Imagine my delight when I measured my waist and realised that I was, indeed a size 24. So there was atleast one thing about me that was considered just right and ‘perfect’ by the world. For the record, despite the years, my waist size has remain unchanged. My slim waist is perhaps the only feature I am truly proud of. I do get a lot of compliments for my eyes too, but my family is quick to make fun of my big eyes, so all it gets negated and I don’t take the compliments very seriously. My size 24 waist, however, I take very seriously and make it a point to show off as much as I can.

While we’re on the topic of showing off, here is a picture of me wearing my orange skirt. I bought this skirt when I was 13, though the label says it is meant for 9-10 year olds. Considering the fact that I stopped growing after 13, both horizontally and vertically, this skirt has stayed with me for all these years. I don’t wear it often, but I do air it out every now and then. Now tell me, isn’t this very show off worthy? If you think it is plain retarded, don’t say it.


My famed orange skirt


Proof of my claim

So there I was, chatting with a friend. I’ll call her R. I was telling R how I have acquired a lot of flab around my waist, and though I still do fit into my size 24 jeans, they feel a lot more tight. I do not want to take away the only perfect thing I have, so I must work out and get rid of the flab. She responded with a, “Don’t be so shallow, looks don’t matter at all. All that matters is your nature and the kind of person you are”

I’ve heard this statement endless times, and each time it leaves me confused. Yes, your nature and the kind of person you are matter a lot. But would I go on to say that looks don’t matter at all? No. Because I believe they do. I’ll talk about another friend, S. At over a 100 kgs, S is obese. She is a lovely person, but totally oblivious to her problem. She spends long hours wondering why she isn’t able to find a suitable match in the arranged marriage circuit. Why can’t any guy like me for the person I am, why should he only be interested in how I look, she questions. I wonder, what are the chances that a guy will discover her beautiful inner self, if he is already put off by her unappealing exterior?

I did believe for me to like somebody (as a mate), I needed to first be remotely attracted to him physically. The word here is ‘remotely’. Because chances are that if I was not even minutely attracted to him, I wouldn’t take the effort to know him better, and perhaps miss out on the awesome person he is. His good nature in this case would have been irrelevant and of not much use.

I fell in love with Mint because of the kind of person he is, and not because of how he looked. But there is no denying the significance of the initial physical attraction between us. In his Banana Republic tee, baggy jeans and a warm grin, I thought he looked very attractive when we met. With my hair tossed back, a clingy purple tee and my enthusiastic laughter, Mint thought I was cute and hot at the same time. And so we were both intrigued and started spending more time talking to each other, only to learn more about one another and finally fall in love. Would it have happened without that first spark? I doubt.

So yes, I do believe looks have a role to play in getting you attracted to somebody. What do you think? Does the initial flying of sparks matter?


44 Responses to “Does it matter?”

  1. MR said

    I think it does, initially … It starts the cycle. I think once you know the person, their nature overshadows the imperfections but i need to be passably attracted to someone – physically for the relationship like marriage to work, atleast for me.

  2. MR said

    god you have a tiny waist, my waist stayed the same , even after 2 kids 🙂 but my hips grew !!!! is that possible? huh weird. you’re very very lucky or incredibly disciplined to stay the same.

  3. simplegirl said

    I do not think it matters..

  4. Bingo said

    Pepper, I stopped reading when I read your family is making fun of your eyes.

    Dear Pepper’s family members or whosoever making fun of her eyes, let me tell you that everyday I spend whole 10 seconds looking at her eye on this blog before reading her posts. She IS having a most beautiful eye. Please don’t make fun of them.

  5. Wow!!! What a great figure you have……Absolutely agree the initial sparks do matter b’coz on the basis of that we decide whether we want to take it further or not…..So at the risk of sounding shallow I’ll agree that even if its a little bit but looks do matter …..

  6. Yes. The initial spark does matter- very much!
    More so in arranged marriages, where you haven’t spent any time with the other person to get to know him/her.

    That said, I know people who have arranged married the person who looks poles apart from themselves ( plump vs Skinny). Made me wonder why they chose each other. Only explanation – Physical attraction does not care about the size of the waist. Any size can get attracted to any other size.

    Not sure I made sense. But, just an opinion from my observation 🙂

    • Pepper said

      Size is only one part of it no? Your smile, eyes, hair, body, there is so many things that can draw you to the other. They would still be a part of ‘physical attraction’ 🙂

  7. R's Mom said

    Oh I loved that skirt. Will borrow it for the brat sometime 🙂 I must admit your waist size is envy worthy 🙂 and your eyes are super pretty

  8. The Bride said

    First, wowzer…congratulations on your waist, do you still fit into the orange skirt? I also used to buy things from the kids section, but not in the recent past.

    On the significance of looks:
    1. In finding a mate, yes, they matter, and while some beauty cues have evolved since the beginning of civilisation, others are more recent and we’ve been rigidly conditioned into them. Therefore, there is a cultural preference for certain body types. If one’s focus in life is finding a mate, then one can attempt to fit into the cultural standards of beauty to do so.
    2. Not everyone’s focus is on finding a mate, nor should it be so. We are inordinately preoccupied with this.
    3. It is not impossible to find a mate even at 100 kilos. So externals are not the only thing that people are drawn to, even though it does help. Moreover, it is very very hard for a 100 kg person to lose enough weight to meet current beauty standards. Very few actually manage to, it’s like a huge amount of effort and the results are not always anything near slim. I doubt your friend is oblivious.

    • Pepper said

      Hey, yes. Ofcourse I do fit in that skirt, which is I why put it up in this post. That pic is taken in Thailand. I went there two weeks ago 🙂

      I agree with everything you say. About the last point, yes, it is definitely not impossible for my friend to find a mate. It is just that much harder, especially if it has to be an arranged match.I don’t know if my friend is oblivious. If she isn’t, she pretends to be clueless when she wonders why nobody responds to her.

  9. Shweta said

    24 inches???!!! *faints*

    and yes, to a certain extent I believe looks or rather ‘being presentable’ is important! Acceptance is quicker that ways.

  10. As long as your are comfy and proud who are, don’t care bout others..I feel the top is cute and has lovely patterns..You are beautiful in the way you carry yourself, has an opinion and comfy in who you are with a beautiful heart-dat what I feel despite I don’t know you personally. hehe! I’m not flirting..well! what attracts me in a person-should be well read, intelligence, makes sense conversations, must be crazy and mad coz I a weirdo in that sense..sanity is over rated, you see and must have dreams:)
    Stay Beautiful as always lady coz inner beauty matters

  11. DI said

    Yes, yes and yes. There is no denying anything you said. And I believe everyone knows this too, it is just about accepting things.
    Looks might be a shallow thing to talk about to many, but seriously, if it really didn’t matter how you looked, why do we go out of our way to buy pretty clothes, fix our hair, work out? Come on, Just that some people admit it, some don’t. I am a classic example. When I spoke of wanting to lose weight after the baby, I was met with a lot of ‘ wow! what priorities! You are a mom now!’ So? I am, I know! Am I being a bad mom by wanting to be a good looking one? Bah! It is annoying, and there is absolutely no shame in wanting a beautiful exterior and a more beautiful heart. Also, what IS the first thing you notice when you see someone? It is how they look, so the spark is ABSOLUTELY essential. The Dude admits it pretty shamelessly too, that he had been finding ways to talk to me at work, right from when he saw me at work, and this obviously was when he knew NOTHING about me right? Does it make him shallow? Well, honestly, it makes me feel good about myself.
    Too much ho gaya right?
    And what kind of an alien are you? Fitting into clothes for 9-10 year olds? Ooh good thing, Zo and you can share a wardrobe in some years 😐

    • Pepper said

      I am glad we agree, DI. Not everybody thinks what I said is obvious. You’ll see that even in this comment section.

      Haha, The Dude was finding ways to talk to you at work? You should tell me more sometime. 😀

      Wardrobe with Zo in a few years? If you are sarcastic, I can’t tell. Lol.

  12. Ashwathy said

    Does the initial flying of sparks matter?
    If it’s friendship, no just the initial vibe is fine (although I know people who choose friends on the basis of looks first! 🙄 )

    If it’s for attraction, then yes I do believe looks play a part. But then its a combination of many factors right? Not just the way you look, it’s also the way you talk, the way you laugh, the way you joke, the way you carry yourself. I notice a lot of these things in the first meeting itself. It’s a combination of all these things in proporton that make a personality attractive to me.

    • Pepper said

      Wait. What? You know people who choose friends on the basis of looks?!

      Ofcourse it is a combination of factors. I never said it isn’t. But what is the FIRST thing you notice before you somebody laugh, or joke? See, do read DI’s comment. I think she says it very well.

  13. Sarah Syed said

    Yep it does certainly. But Junaid has been making jokes of how people come to me attracted by how I look and then are put off by my unexpected dumb-ness. 😝

  14. hitchy said

    In the long run looks don’t matter as much as the person… but only second! Looks also do matter as much as anyone would want to deny it and we all yearn to look nicer.. there is no denying it! Yes, the person, their nature, their sense of humour, how we feel for them is much more important… and yet… looks help simplify matters I say! :mrgreen:

  15. Stu said

    I think looks ARE important to – as you say – “getting attracted” to somebody. But often i find that the person one falls in love with is reasonably independent of looks. indeed in my case, my now-husband was a gangly 5’11” 62-kg lad of 17, and i thought he looked way too, well, gangly. And we grew to be friends, then lovers, then boyfriend/girlfriend, and then a married couple.

    Sure at the “lovers” stage there was a “can’t keep hands off each other” phase, but i firmly believe that was irrespective of how he looked.

    and infact a few of my crushes in life have been butt-ugly. but i was smitten by them anyway!

    finally, yes i think looks are important, but often we end up liking how the person we like looks. phew!

    • Pepper said

      Okay. let me give you my own example. I’ve been friends with Mint since I was 16. He looked like a complete dork then. But for the first few years, he was just a friend. When the sparks did fly, he had transformed from dork to delectable. I am not saying I wouldn’t have fallen in love with him had he continued looking like a dork. Far from it. But his transformation fascinated the process for me.

      Anyway, I agree with what you say. When you are friends and then fall in love, perhaps looks don’t matter as much. But that is because you’ve already had a chance to evaluate other aspects like his personality, etc. I am talking about scenarios in which you do not already know other facets of his. Then don’t you think looks play a role in helping you decide whether you want to get to know him better or not?

  16. Jack Point said

    Yes, I think some modicum of attractiveness must be there, at least initially.

    No harm working on your fitness, it will bring long term health benefits, in addition to improving appearance. A word of warning for small-made people: an extra kilo is far more noticeable on a small frame than a large frame, so its best to work on flab early.

  17. B said

    Wow, a 24 inch waist!!
    In reply to your question, yes, I definitely think that looks do matter. The first time I saw my current boyfriend, I noticed how tall and muscular he was and how great his smile was.

  18. chattywren said

    What adds ups to a person’s personalty is more than just physical looks, I think! Sometimes one sees very good looking people, well turned out too, but can be put off by the way they talk or behave, some other traits which may not be so great…. so, this is debatable. Also, once you talk to people, you get to learn more of them, their nature, thoughts, attitude – all of which add on to make up one’s impression of that person. Physical attractiveness is definitely attention-grabbing and perhaps the first thing one may notice about another person, but just one of the factors in the final analysis, IMO.

    • Pepper said

      “Physical attractiveness is definitely attention-grabbing and perhaps the first thing one may notice about another person, but just one of the factors in the final analysis, IMO. Once you talk to people, you get to learn more of them, their nature, thoughts, attitude – all of which add on to make up one’s impression of that person.”

      Ehh, isn’t that exactly what I said? Either you just paraphrased my post or you didn’t understand it at all.

      • chattywren said

        Oh! I just re-read your post. Physical attractiveness maybe attractive initially but if they don’t have other personal attributes one finds appealing, it may not be enough on its own. I personally don’t give too much importance to it.

  19. ferret said

    I don’t quite agree with you, that looks are important. There have to be initial sparks, but that could be ignited by quite a few things other than looks. Talent, attitude, humor, kindness. Imagine a scenario where you meet someone and he looks like a regular dork, you do like everything about him, it doesn’t matter to you that he looks like a dork. Then you meet him after some time has passed and his looks have drastically changed making him delectable. Yea sparks flew in this meeting, and we can give part of the credit to the looks. The same story changed a little bit, where the guy remains the same dork, but you suddenly discovered how beautifully he played the piano. It is entirely possible for this to make sparks fly too.

    Another thing is, when we first see someone, we don’t really see the beauty/looks in isolation. Even if you’re meeting someone for the first time, it is the whole person that we make a judgement of. We process every bit of information we have at hand, and then come up with an instictive response of feeling attracted or not. So singling out physical beauty is not fair. Even if i’m looking at a picture of someone i notice their facial expressions and make a judgement on whether the smile looks genuine or fake, does the person look conscious of being clicked etc. I don’t go over these points one by one, its in an instant that i look at a picture and come up with my verdict. But if i analyse my verdict, i can see that a lot of factors went into my instintive reaction. Now, if that’s the case for a still picture, imagine how many factors must go into our instinctive reaction of feeling attracted or not to a live person in front of us. Physical beauty is one of the many factors that go into attraction. It is not more important or less than any of the other factors.

    For me, personally, looks don’t matter much. I’ve always felt most attraction to a nice, gentle kind of a vibe more than anything else. I wonder if that made any sense! I just always liked the good boys more than anybody else. Opposites attract you see 😉

    • Pepper said

      Ferret, I think it will help if you read my post again. Anyway, I will try and respond to some of the things you’ve said.

      “There have to be initial sparks, but that could be ignited by quite a few things other than looks. Talent, attitude, humor, kindness”
      Yes! But, talent, attitude, humour and kindness are traits that are not visible! To know about these, you will have to interact with the person first. I am sure we both agree with that. All I said was that looks are the first thing you can notice. Other attributes like kindness, play a bigger role than looks (I said this in my post too, please read), but they are only discovered later. But the first thing you know about somebody when you see them is how they look.

      “Even if you’re meeting someone for the first time, it is the whole person that we make a judgement of.”
      Agree, but again, I am talking about scenarios in which you only SEE a person. Not in which you MEET him/her. All that you say is possible only after you’ve met, and that is not what I am talking about.

      Even if i’m looking at a picture of someone i notice their facial expressions and make a judgement on whether the smile looks genuine or fake, does the person look conscious of being clicked etc.”
      Eh? Facial expression, genuine smile, all of that is a part of your looks, no? So you agree with what I am saying 😛

      “Physical beauty is one of the many factors that go into attraction. It is not more important or less than any of the other factors.”
      Please tell me when I said it is? Again, the more I read your comment, the more I think you didn’t understand what I tried to convey.

      • ferret said

        Let me try to phrase what I think you’re trying to convey. You’re saying that when you first see someone, an initial physical attraction is important, and that initial physical attraction is a factor of physical beauty. Post that initial attraction, all your usual “inner beauty” etc is going to come into play, but if the initial spark doesn’t happen, owing to a lack of physical beauty, then there is hardly any chance for anything else to happen. Tell me if i’m wrong in my understanding.

        Pepper: Yes, I’m saying that I think it is true in general, for the majority of the cases, but not every case.

        Well now, let me try to rephrase what I tried to convey. My point is that the initial physical attraction could be because of reasons other than physical beauty. There are other reasons which can be as compelling as a handsome face.
        There are two scenarios, you either are seeing the person for the first time, having had no prior interactions of any kind; or you’ve got some background info already out of one/few/many earlier interactions of any form (in person or otherwise).

        If you have had prior interaction, and were neutral in terms of attraction towards this person, a spark could fly because of a facet that suddenly presents itself (a change in look / or outlook maybe, or anything like a talent, humor, attitude etc)

        Pepper: Yes, I don’t deny that. I said looks can be one of the factors, it can play a role and facilitate further attraction. I said it is the most noticeable factor in general. I didn’t say it is the sole factor in every single case.

        Now talking about the case, if you’re seeing a person for the first time. I’m not a believer in love at first sight. So no, I don’t think sparks could fly if I just saw a person. How many times can you count that you just ‘saw’ someone, and sparks flew. We see a lot of exceptionally good looking people every now and then, but we don’t feel a physical attraction to all of them.

        Pepper: When did I say I believe in love at first sight? I don’t either. Sparks flying is not love. It is just physical attraction, nothing more, nothing less. (BTW, the trigger for the next stage doesn’t even have to be a full-blown sparks flying and angels singing and bells ringing either. Just a mild physical attraction is sufficient as well.) Do sparks have to fly every single time you see a good looking person for the first time? No. But when sparks do fly the first time a typical man/woman sets his/her eyes on someone else, what are the chances that person is good looking? High. Not 100%, but > 50%.

        Physical attraction happens when you can see more than the physical beauty. Like someone said in the comments about her partner seeing her at her workplace and looking for ways to talk to her. We can’t say that he only saw how beautiful she was, he saw her complete personality, maybe how lively and fun loving she was in addition to being pretty. She would not be the same person, if we took out either the beauty or the visible personality traits. What if her personality seemed to be the complete opposite to what he liked, would he still be looking for ways to talk to her? Probably not. How can we single out her beauty to be the most important reason for the attraction. Her personality is as important a factor. Surely it takes more than just beauty.

        Pepper: Did I say beauty is the most important reason for attraction? No. I said physical beauty usually has a significant role to play in the initial attraction – I can’t stress this enough – IN GENERAL. Also, I consider visible personality traits to be a part of her physical beauty.

        But can attraction happen without the physical beauty? I think it can. There’s got to be one outstanding trait, and that could be as simple as how well spoken someone is, or how successful, or how kind, or talented, or anything like this. These are things that can be visible within no time of meeting someone. I can speak for myself that I’ve been attracted to a lot of people over the years at various stages of my interaction with them, for a variety of reasons.

        Pepper: Yes, attraction can happen without physical beauty. Again, I never denied it can never happen. I was talking about the majority.

        I gave the example of seeing a picture, as a case of when you’re really only seeing the person, not meeting him. Genuine smile, according to me, is part of personality more than it is about looks (relating it to arranged marriage scene 😛 ) The arranged marriage circuit is a huge topic in itself, but there also, I think beauty cannot be singled out. I know more than a few girls / guys, some of whom very beautiful, but not getting past the biodata+photo stage ‘coz of so many different reasons. People have so many checkboxes that they want to tick before they even meet someone. Shaadi.com should come up with a checklist + scoring system where people can add in their list of criteria that they match people against. That will be revealing!!

        Pepper: Yes, there are several checkboxes that have to be ticked. Infact, in a typical shaadi.com filtering, photo is looked at only after other checkboxes such as religion, caste, location, income etc have been ticked. But when they do get to it, one would be naive to think it is not a huge checkbox in India. The meeting part, phone/chat conversations and personality discovery usually only comes after the photo is liked. It is not gender specific these days either. I’m not saying it is right or wrong. Just saying it is the reality one can’t be in denial of.

  20. Neha said

    Hi Pepper,

    You may want to delete my previous comment. It was just a impromptu rant that your blog shouldn’t have.

    Pepper: I’m glad, because in all honesty, I was totally stumped by the previous comment. I thought it was a knee jerk reaction that completely missed the point, although I’m still not sure if you’ve understood what I was trying to say.

    My questions here after gathering my thoughts on the topic of looks
    1) The title of your post should have been- Do certain types of looks, those that adhere to the popular social constructs of beauty, matter?

    Pepper: The title of my post was does IT matter? You’re free to define “it”.

    2) When everyone here says that they all feel nice when complimented on their looks and everyone makes the effort to look good, does it always mean that they do only those things that help meet these social standards of beauty? Like to try to get thinner or undergo plastic surgery to thin out one’s nose? Everyone tries to simply enhance the features that they already have and not necessarily try to look like say Scarlett Johanson or Megan Fox. When someone compliments me, I think they are trying to say that I look better than my usual self and not just a replica of Aishwarya Rai. For me looking good is just wearing some good clothes and combing my hair once in a while. I find myself beautiful, extremely beautiful in the mornings because i feel fresh and rejuvenated from within. My husband agrees with me.

    Pepper: I’ll let everyone answer the question on what they meant. What do you mean by “Everyone tries to simply enhance the features that they already have and not necessarily try to look like say Scarlett Johanson or Megan Fox.” To enhance which features that they already have, do women go get breast implants and butt lifts? Or let’s say they are indeed trying to enhance an existing feature, what do you really mean by “enhance”, apart from making them closer to the socially accepted standards of beauty? Do you know of anyone who goes to the plastic surgeon to get their nose cut off (apart from Michael Jackson ofcourse) or get their skin wrinkled? No, they inject botox and get their nose shaped to what the society thinks makes their face look beautiful. When you say you wear “good” clothes, the “good” is a social standard. Why is wearing torn dirty clothes not a means of looking good for you? When you comb your hair to look good, it is because combed hair, and not wild unkempt hair, is the social standard for looking good in this part of the world. So in short, I’m REALLY struggling to understand what is the point you’re trying to make here.

    3) If I introduce this blog to my young teenage daughter, say 15 years later, and she happens to be another size, would she start believing that a part of looking good has to do with extremely thin? Would you want your kids to think like that?

    Pepper: My parents didn’t teach me to believe that being very thin is beautiful. In fact, I don’t think being very thin is beautiful myself. But having a small waist is considered beautiful by society today, and I was just taking some small childish joy for having one. Shoot me. What your daughter believes to be good looking 15 years later will likely be a function of the social conditioning of her generation, her intelligence and personal choices, and who knows what that might be. If she sees this blog post, she might think I’m nuts if the future standard is the complete opposite. So?

    4) When Mint underwent the transformation from being a dork to being whoever he is now, did he achieve as a result of the pursuit of fitting certain constructs of beauty?

    Pepper: Yes, beauty is a social construct. Him looking like a dork was also a social standard BTW.

    5) Like the bride said, certain body types are more popular just like certain skin types when it comes to measuring beauty in the social context. Looks matter but if one’s mind is free of the crappy conditioning we go through we can fall in love with fat, dark, short people too. They are extremely attractive too, just not considered universally so. I have seen that happen many times and I hope you come across such instances too.

    Pepper: I NEVER said fat, dark, short people can’t find love, neither did I say physical attraction is necessary to fall in love. I only said the chances of someone finding them physically attractive is small in today’s society, precisely because of the conditioning everyone has gone through. I’m not talking about how things should be in the ideal world, I’m stating how things are in the real world, whether we like it or not.

    6) Also just because the MARRIAGE MARKET expects you meet certain superficial standards of beauty doesn’t mean that it’s right in doing so. It’s a really terrible place to be in. Your friend can perhaps loose some weight and she’ll find suitors through the market. Others with a medical condition are not so lucky. Like I said just because the inequality exists on such a large scale doesn’t make it can be accepted.

    Pepper: Again, I’m not talking about what is right and what is wrong. I most definitely don’t approve of it, but there is no denying the reason she was not finding suitors in the marriage market easily. And you seem to agree yourself.

    7) Last but not the least, I am simply disappointed to know while we all feel strongly against gender constructs we still find it difficult to let go of certain social constructs that work to our advantage.

    Pepper: And yet again, my question was NOT “Should it matter?”, it was “Does it matter?” I think this was the essence of your entire misunderstanding.

  21. […] been meaning to do this post for a long time, but never got to it. Then a couple of posts, like this one, and this one, along with the Blogathon’s ‘Must. Post. Today.’ pressure, made me […]

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